Anger is a powerful force in this world. It is a defensive mechanism that can help us stand up to a boundary or value that has been diminished or broken. It is what fuels the activists and leaders that transform our world constructively.
At the same time, anger can be deeply damaging to the physical body and create a way of relating in the world that generates negative karma.
Whilst it is absolutely important for people who have never felt valid enough as a person to recognize their legitimate anger (and have it recognized by others), this exercise too has necessary limits. There is a line between constructive anger and destructive anger.
When you take your anger out on someone (well beyond making them recognize where they have overstepped) and are getting off on the high and the power of it .. that´s toxic. Or when you take your anger out on someone who cannot speak back to you and hold them hostage to it. Or when you use your anger to control another´s behavior. That´s toxic.
To be clear, this excludes legitimate acts of self-defense. You do not need to be nice to someone when you are fighting for your life, belongings, bodily integrity and/or sanity. That´s a good example where your anger can save your life and show you the means of empowering others.
However – your anger can easily be weaponized in ways that do not liberate you or others from karmic constraints and institutional barriers if you are not careful. It can become a hole that you just dig deeper and deeper into each time you lapse into it. And a powerful hook for those who want to string you along that way.
You may well find yourself using your anger to hurt others who did not cause your problem in the first place.
There are of course points where maybe you got the wrong end of the stick, but there´s plenty of times where you didn´t. Your anger may have been situationally or systemically manufactured by the actions of others.
Ultimately, anger comes about as a (valid) defensive reaction. But if prolonged or constantly required, it can become toxic, or even as a source of power, control and addiction.
One of the saddest things I see is when people who have been victimized speak about their experiences only to be re-traumatized again through the invalidation of their experience. Over time, they may find themselves in the role of ´abuser´ as society gives them no scope for agency otherwise.
Sometimes it´s a case of not working through wounds and using anger as a power-up-elixir to hide away from their pain and convince themselves of their mastery of the situation
Ultimately, anger can be a force of great good for all.
But it can also be used in powerfully damaging ways.
Anger should not be erased. It should not be invalidated in the name of Love.
The expression of anger in an appropriate way IS a powerful expression of Love.
And it is the fuel for the Love-in-Action capable of transforming the Planet at this critical moment in time.
And that’s why this is so important to talk about.
Let´s turn to whose anger tends to be minimized and why.
ANGER AND SOCIAL JUSTICE ISSUES: TONE-POLICING AND THE TRANSFORMATION OF GAS-LIT VICTIM INTO AGGRESSOR
It is somehow deemed as more ´acceptable´ for some genders and ethnicities to have their voices marginalized or their tone policed more than others. And this creates further cycles of systemic abuse.
Please note that individual narratives of pain and anger are absolutely valid. But they do not erase structural, systemic, long-term, institutionalized patterns of abuse that affect whole populations.
As a female member of an ethnic minority living on this planet and at this time, I have pushed through multiple institutional and political barriers to be (and continue becoming) what I am. So I´m speaking from experience here, rather than armchair postulation.
I can also tell you that no matter how clear you are in your intent, there will always be people who choose to project on it.
Taking one example:
Whenever I talk about issues of systemic racism or institutional privileges created by European colonization that are still ongoing , I get the whole ´forgive them, rise above it´ spiel. More often than not, by white people who claim to have transcended it.
If you can´t imagine why this is a problem, imagine telling a survivor of sexual abuse speaking up on her experience and calling for change that her anger is toxic and divisive and that she needs to transcend it. Or that ´thoughts and prayers´ or ´positive thinking´ will stop her and others from enduring the same kind of abuse. Or that it was her fault that it happened because of karma or a lack of self-worth. Or because she was a woman and deserved it.
That´s horrible, isn´t it? Can you imagine saying that to someone who feels justice denied to them especially by someone who could never even imagine what they endured?
And so it goes for ethnic minorities talking about colonialism.
It´s a very specific form of violence whose pervasive effects continue till this day.
If you can understand the second example, you can understand the first.
The double standard in policing the anger of indigenous and/or POC (people of colour – and no, don´t go diluting that term because it makes some people uncomfortable) is a statement in itself. It is even more so when women speak up about it.
I do want to state without exception that men and those of other genders are also subject to these forms of silence, and sometimes in more extreme ways (think missing/killed transpeople). As a whole, systemically, the bias is set against women speaking up. In no way does this minimize any individual´s narrative.
What happens when a person´s legitimate anger is policed, or they´re told to tone it down, or make it comfortable for people – is that that person gets victimized all over again.
And you know what´s especially sad about the whole thing?
Despite the entire discourse and awareness that the collective has generated on narcissistic abuse and gaslighting, it stopped short on understanding how this same pattern got carried over onto people expressing their rage or anger at the world and systemic injustices.
Gaslighting is essentially an invalidation of a person´s reality. And instead of trying to understand why a person is angry, one gets more attention, likes, etc. when they try to invalidate them.
That´s why tone policing on social justice issues is especially insidious.
It´s basically another form of gaslighting.
And when you keep victimizing a person long enough, minimizing their reality, they´re not always going to stay victims. They tend to become abusers.
And what was once a beautiful, powerful, needed expression of their Soul and Love they long denied to themselves – becomes another toxic cog in the wheel that generates the cycle of abuse.
Think about that the next time you or anyone else tries to make a person´s legitimate voice and anger unimportant.
It is especially ironic when you or others do so from ´a place of love and light´.
Take that same compassion you have for victims of narcissistic abuse, (more often that not) women who have been told to turn the other cheek and stay in relationships that ultimately kill their spirit – and show it to others.
That would be far more powerful as a spiritual act.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT FOR YOU TO ENGAGE WITH ANGER CONSTRUCTIVELY?
Ultimately, what anger needs is to be heard. Is to be witnessed. Is to be understood. Is to be validated.
Sometimes that is healing in itself, and sometimes it is the catalyst that is needed for people to take action and correct the injustice that occurred.
And in cases where you´re talking about long-standing issues such as colonization and so on, believe me when I say you will be a far richer and saner and all around wonderful person if you let those who have been marginalized speak first. And hear them out.
Because you may inadvertently create a far bigger problem if you don´t.
Sometimes anger has been suppressed for so long that it becomes a toxic emanation in itself. And no amount of compassionate listening can bring that person out of that state.
It is not your responsibility to heal this in others or to volunteer as the energetic punching bag of the moment – but it helps if you can recognize where it came from.
Being compassionate does not mean you need to suffer abuse from another. It does not make them or the karmic cycles they are experiencing disappear.
Sometimes the energy they (parts of themselves) witness in you setting your boundaries with an open heart is part of the medicine. They may never acknowledge, thank or like you for it. But that is irrelevant.
Sometimes you do need to detach from it. But detachment and silence is actually less damaging that saying something that just continues that abuse by minimizing the fact it ever occurred.
And sometimes you need to say: Oh god. Yes, let´s do something about this. And do it.
It really comes down to context.
I hope this essay provides more nuance on the question of anger, it´s place in the world, ways to address it, the insidious gas-lighting that is tone-policing, and so on.
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